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I started this group (Industry & Infrastructure) to discuss happenings about domestic industry and infrastructure. There are so many misconceptions about industry and manufacturing in particular, that I want to try and boost our collective literacy, including mine.

I want to concentrate on things that the US makes and builds, more from a government and business perspective than a consumer perspective...More about the tools, raw materials, etc. that make an electric car than the electric car itself. Where does it come from? What is needed to make it? If it tastes good, how was it grown? Wind turbines are nice, but what are they made of? By whom?

The next month is going to be crazy for me (if you buy certain consumer electronics this Christmas, I'm building manufacturing tooling for some of it over the next month.), but as time goes on, I'm hoping that I can write some interesting diaries and perhaps get a couple people with a background in manufacturing to contribute as well. I don't know exactly what this experiment will shape-up to be, but I'm hoping it will be interesting.

For background, I've worked an odd set of jobs in my short life (I'm in my mid-20s). I originally thought I might pursue a career in media production, and did for several years, mainly in a technical capacity. Right now, I make and calibrate specialty tools, automation systems and test equipment used in factories all over the world.

Over the coming weeks, I will be writing a little about manufacturing. A few planned diaries (subject to change):

Cheap Plastic Crap Part 1: A mold-y subject.
(On the loss of plastic crap, and the subsequent loss of tooling, know-how, and higher-paying jobs.)

Cheap Plastic Crap Part 2: Travel the world!

(On supply chains and the quest for cheap direct labor, at the expense of everything else.)

The US makes stuff that makes stuff! A survey
(A quick look at several companies that make manufacturing tooling in the US.)

BRAINZ: What corporate America can learn from zombies!
(Why many US companies are cheating their shareholders by not fully utilizing their most valuable asset.)

And, if I have the fortitude to do the research right:
Accounting rules and job creation
(On GAAP and changes that could encourage domestic hiring)

I'm open to any and all suggestions, advice, etc. I've never really run a group before, and as one can see from my history it's been several years since my last diary.

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Comment Preferences

  •  A Few Weeks Ago NBC News (6+ / 0-)

    actually did some reporting. They found a family that let them take everything out of their home that wasn't made in America. The family was stunned that literally almost nothing was left. I mean nothing.

    They then replaced everything with American made products. In every instance but one the American made product was about the same price or ever cheaper.

    The only place they had a problem was with kitchen appliances. There are more then a few made in the US, but most are very high-end and expensive.

    They bought a lot of the furniture from a company in NC. They talked to the owner and he was like "dude, WTF. don't Americans realize Americans actually still do make a lot of stuff and we're price competitive."

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 06:34:03 PM PDT

    •  A toaster oven... (4+ / 0-)

      We make a lot more domestically than most people realize. Except for small appliances.

      I've been looking for two years for a toaster oven made in the US...Or at least not in the PRC.

      I found a new-old-stock one made in the US, but it broke in an unfixable way pretty quickly.


      •  Try To Find US Made Speakers (3+ / 0-)

        I think Polk is the only firm left, unless you want to pay like $10,000 for speakers (I do not).

        When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

        by webranding on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 06:48:45 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yeah, the low-end went overseas (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          webranding, kurt, RunawayRose

          The high-end remains here. JBL still makes some stuff here, Polk, Great Plains Audioa few other companies, but most are in the audiophile/pro studio monitor range.

          Triad Speakers (based here in Portland, OR) makes almost all their stuff in the US, and while it is expensive, it isn't crazy expensive.

          but mid-low priced speakers have gone the same way as most small appliances: Dirt cheap, in every sense of the word.

          I think there is a massive hole in the market for many consumer goods right now. You can get crap, or near-bespoke, but not much in-between.

          •  As A Marketing Guy I Agree (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Gravedugger, RunawayRose
            I think there is a massive hole in the market for many consumer goods right now.

            I never buy the "cheap" product. I save and buy the most expensive I can. I've found if you buy a higher-end product and take care of it, well it can last a lifetime. Heck I have a CD player from 1986 that still works.

            It seems from a messaging point-of-view this is kind of a powerful message. Why buy a $50 DVD player that lasts a couple years when you could pay more and have one that will last close to forever.

            You save money in the long run .... or at least that is my thinking.

            When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

            by webranding on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 07:19:43 PM PDT

            [ Parent ]

  •  I Think It'll Catch On. (5+ / 0-)

    I'm an artisan making and exporting, but in addition to a career mainly in computer tech before it was outsourced, I've also worked carpentry, construction and boat building.

    And growing up in NE Ohio we were in the middle of the industrial engine of the world. We had the Rubber Capital of the World, Refinery #1 of Standard Oil, world's top iron ore port, Motor City obviously, and many other #1 rankings locally or within a day's drive.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 06:34:43 PM PDT

    •  I Wish I Could Find The NPR (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gravedugger, kurt, RunawayRose

      link to a story I heard the other day. It was a piece about the fact more companies have been founded in the last two years then during the thing. Basically the thesis of it was that folks had given up on our government or corporate America to create jobs so they were doing it themselves. Heck I know several people there that have done exactly that after working in "corporate" America their entire lives.

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 06:56:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Very interesting. (4+ / 0-)

    As a climate advocate, I believe we have to keep a promise that clean energy jobs go to Americans for products made in America. For that reason alone, I tend to like wind better than solar - great big bulky turbine parts are made in Rust Belt sheet metal factories, not shipped from China.

    Of course, I've read too much since Obama's election to show that we are losing if not have already lost the clean energy race, if race is what it is.

    I'll follow your group.

    Join/follow Climate Hawks and Public Lands; @RL_Miller

    by RLMiller on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 06:54:08 PM PDT

    •  At The Gas Station The Other Day (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Gravedugger, RLMiller, RunawayRose

      I was next to a guy in a truck that had their logo and company name on the side. They sold/installed solar panels. I asked him how business was and he said great. More work then they can handle. Biggest problem, getting the solar panels they need.

      When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

      by webranding on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 06:59:44 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks for following... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RLMiller, RunawayRose

      It won't take much for us to at least be in the race. There are so many companies and people poised to work in renewables, that I'm discovering new ones every day.

      We will not lead this one, but a modicum of industrial policy (we have none), and some more dirty energy regulation (California has made a good start), and the industry will start to politically self-sustain. Once that happens, it will become a permanent fixture.

      What I mean by that is simple (if a little optimistic): You get enough companies working in renewables, and they form a big enough bloc of donors, etc. that politicians will protect them.

  •  Gravedugger There Is A Topic (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gravedugger, 3goldens, RunawayRose

    I've wanted to research and have not. I am a tech geek. If you follow the industry at all you know pretty much every chip is not made in the US. Apple's iPad and iPhone are so hot right now that other companies can't get all the video chips they need to produce the products they sell. Apple is buying them all. That makes me wonder WTF is going on. Why not make them in the US.

    When opportunity calls pick up the phone and give it directions to your house.

    by webranding on Sat Apr 23, 2011 at 07:09:51 PM PDT

    •  The reasons are many... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      3goldens, kurt, Tinfoil Hat, RunawayRose

      As far as i can tell, the iPhone/iPad cost is about 5% labor. The outsourcing drive therefore shouldn't be labor.

      The drivers for overseas production are severalfold:

      1. The cost accountants tend to obsess over the cost of direct labor, even if it increases supply chain costs many, many times.

      2. The companies have invested in a supply chain infrastructure based around outsourcing, and they don't want to waste their investment. This means that a lot of companies are reluctant to on-shore, because it means giving up billions in investments.

      3. With regards to the PRC, many companies are hoping that basing manufacturing there will help them access that fast-growing market. The flaws with that could occupy a couple diaries.

      But back to US production:

      We do make some stuff in the US. The ESI MM5800 laser machining center is critical to Apple's production. Intel makes a crapload of chips in the US, including high-end ones. The Atom is made in 2 US plants and an Israeli plant. Most other chips are designed in the US or Europe, but made in fabs in Asia, particularly TSMC. Apple's processors are made by Samsung, somewhere.

      The reason why we can't make commodity chips in the US is because we shut down many of the plants capable of making them. We do high-end, we have research or R&D transition fabs, but commodity logic chips, RAM, etc. are only made in a couple US plants. Micron in VA, IMFT in utah,

      It takes hundreds of millions if not a billion dollars and several years to get a fab running. Companies bet the farm on outsourced production, and as a result, the suppliers followed.

      So we are limited.

      The iPhone is an interesting case. This link:

      Yields an interesting table showing that we make some chips in the US, but not many. That we make any is surprising.

  •  As energy costs rise (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Gravedugger, RunawayRose

    and we begin to price carbon I hope we will see a considerable increase in domestic manufacturing. I also have some hope that our consumer appetite will shift toward quality goods with lower cradle to grave environmental footprint. Right now this is happening in a boutique fashion among a certain group of folk, but it could go mainstream with considerable impact. We can imagine a saner world . . .

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